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Nuclear power is far from “emissions free”

Nuclear energy not emissions-free, too lethal https://www.toledoblade.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/2019/06/15/nuclear-energy-not-emissions-free-dangerous/stories/20   Nuclear power is not a panacea for climate change and doesn’t deserve bailouts like House Bill 6. It is a catastrophically dangerous, dirty, expensive, deteriorating technology that is not “clean”, “indispensable”, “carbon-free”, or “renewable.”

Gregory Jazcko, former Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman, warned, “I oversaw the U.S. nuclear power industry. Now I think it should be banned. The danger from climate change no longer outweighs the risks of nuclear accidents.”

Perry and Davis Besse cost a whopping $8.7 billion to build and billions more in maintenance, repairs, and subsidies. Grid operator PJM has determined that closing Perry and Davis-Besse would not destabilize the grid.

The nuclear power life cycle produces copious carbon and other greenhouse gases from uranium mining, milling, refining, conversion, and enrichment; fuel fabrication; transportation; reactor construction, maintenance, decommissioning; and radioactive waste management.

While nuclear generated electricity is low in carbon, it has never been zero emissions. Reactors emit methane, a greenhouse gas, and radioactive Carbon-14, with a 5,700-year half-life. The scientific and medical communities have determined that there is no safe dose of radiation exposure.

Ingested or inhaled radioactive strontium-90 and cesium-137 replace calcium and potassium respectively, irradiating bones and muscles for decades. Carcinogenic radioactive iodine-131 is absorbed by the thyroid which is why potassium iodide is provided to residents near reactors. Cobalt-60 is a liver, kidney, and bone carcinogen. Specks of inhaled plutonium-239, with a half-life of 24,000 years, can cause lung cancer. Miles of buried, inaccessible, deteriorating pipes have leaked tritium, which is radioactive hydrogen; no technology can remove it from contaminated water.

Over 32 years, disasters occurred at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. The U.S. has 23 Fukushima-type reactors at 16 sites. The NRC and other researchers postulate a 50 percent chance of another catastrophic accident in approximately the next 20 years.

To limit utility liability, Congress passed the 1957 Price Anderson Act which caps accident compensation at $12.6 billion; a 1982 NRC study calculated a severe accident could cause 50,000 fatalities and $314 billion in property damage which is $720 billion today.

A 1,000-megawatt reactor contains as much long-lived radiation as 1,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs from which humans and the environment must be protected forever, but the NRC admits that no engineered structure can last the time required to isolate these wastes and that leakage will occur.

Early warnings to resolve radioactive waste before licensing new reactors were ignored. There are 88,000 tons of irradiated fuel “temporarily” stored in problematic pools and casks at 75 environmentally unsuitable reactor sites in 33 states because no permanent repository exists.

In 2012, Ohio was 13th in the U.S. for wind capacity and investment; this virtually ceased due to a 2014 law which mandated the country’s most restrictive wind turbine setbacks and severely impeded Ohio’s 2008 renewable energy and efficiency standards. HB 6 will finish the job.

Even conservative voters prefer solar, wind, and efficiency and oppose fees to keep old nuclear plants operating. Conservative groups testified against HB 6, as corporate welfare and a glorified slush fund.

Ohio needs to strengthen renewable energy and efficiency standards, stop throwing good money after bad, close Perry and Davis Besse as scheduled, and retrain workers in renewable energy jobs.

The writer is past chairman, Ohio Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Committee, of Willoughby Hills, Ohio.

June 17, 2019 - Posted by | climate change, USA

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